With some of their top players sidelined by injury, the Colorado Avalanche have been getting help from some unlikely sources.
The Avalanche hope to get another big lift from their rookies on Tuesday when they host the Nashville Predators.
Despite an injured list including offensive stalwarts Paul Stastny, Ryan Smyth and Joe Sakic, the Avalanche (26-18-4) have managed to win four of five. Colorado was five points out of first place in the tightly-contested Northwest Division on Jan. 9, but is now just one point back of leader Minnesota.
Colorado defeated Columbus 3-1 on Sunday, as rookies Jeff Finger and Ben Guite each scored their fourth goal of the season.
"We're not going to sit back and wait for our big dogs to get back," said Finger, who has two goals in his last three games. "We know we're missing some offense, but we're still going forward and we're going to try to get as many points as we can with those guys out."
The Avalanche have also been aided by stellar goaltending from Jose Theodore.
The 10-year veteran stopped 26 shots on Sunday, improving to 4-0-1 with a 1.74 goals-against average and a shutout since Jan. 12.
"Things are going well," Theodore said. "The players are playing so well in front of me. They're letting me see the puck and taking care of the rebounds."
The Avalanche have won two straight over Nashville since losing their first meeting of the season 4-0 on Oct. 4. Colorado has never defeated the Predators three consecutive times in a single season.
Colorado's Peter Budaj, who has posted a 2.97 GAA in losing his last three starts, has been in goal for all three games against Nashville this season, recording a 2.20 GAA in those contests. Budaj is 4-2-0 with a 2.62 GAA lifetime against the Predators.
Nashville (24-20-4) defeated St. Louis 6-3 on Monday to complete a home-and-home sweep of the Blues. Alexander Radulov and Martin Gelinas each had two goals and an assist to help the Predators improve to 7-2-2 since Dec. 31.
"Everyone is doing the little things that make a difference," Gelinas said. "It truly was a total team effort."
J.P Dumont assisted on Radulov's 15th goal of the season, extending his career-best point streak to 12 games. Dumont, who has a goal and an assist against the Avalanche this season, has eight goals and nine assists during his run.
Chris Mason finished with 31 saves on Monday, improving to 3-1-1 with two shutouts and a 0.99 GAA in his last five starts.
Mason has also been in net for each game against Colorado this season, recording a 1.70 GAA and one shutout. He is 4-3-0 with a 1.87 GAA and two shutouts in his career versus the Avalanche.